Bound to her stiff and pale hands by a pink ribbon, the same pink ribbon Isobel had given Varen, the corpse held a bouquet of pristine white lilies. Their stifling perfume, now unleashed, filled the tomb, lacing the stagnant air with their choking fragrance.

A twin version of Isobel’s hamsa circled her double’s sallow neck. It gleamed in the frosted moonlight until a blanket of cloud cover passed over the skylight, turning the opal in the center of the charm dim and milky.

Isobel took a step backward and stumbled down the stairs, nearly falling.

She whirled for the door but it was gone now, replaced by flat stone.

“No!” she shouted, the word reverberating around her.

Rushing to the wall, she beat her palms against the place where the door had stood wide open only moments before.

Trapped, she spun to face the interior of the tomb again, but the sudden motion caused the room to reel and tilt. Tossed off her feet, Isobel slammed onto cold stone that pressed into her back and shoulder blades like a slab of ice.

Reaching out, kicking her legs and thrashing, she found herself boxed in by close narrow walls of smooth marble.

Isobel screamed. Contained within the narrow coffin-shape space, the sound of her cries, she knew, would pierce only her own ears.

The sarcophagus—Somehow, she’d become sealed within.




Isobel woke with a sharp gasp.

The outline of long tombs and graves swam into her focus. Hunched in the gloom of the catacombs, they looked like shadow creatures waiting to attack.

Beside her, Gwen sat propped against the tomb of J. Meredith, her head lolled onto one shoulder, her mouth slightly agape, emitting soft snores.

Isobel twisted where she sat, whipping her head to look in the direction of the door that had taken her into the separate chamber of the marble crypt. It was closed, and the light filtering in through the opaque grime-stained sheet of glass no longer shone ethereal blue, but a dull bone yellow.

She’d been dreaming after all. Or was she still?

Isobel grabbed the flashlight once more and felt a funny sense of déjà vu as she reached for the butterfly watch next. She unclipped it from her backpack and clicked it open to see if the hands were still spinning, but they remained still, except for the second hand, which twitched along at its normal rate.

The moment her brain registered the time, a strange prickling sensation spread through her, causing the metal casing of the tiny watch to turn ice-cold in her palm.

The hour hand and the minute hand were almost aligned; both aimed a full notch past twelve.

It was five after one. More than an entire hour past midnight.

Isobel shot to her feet and dropped the keys. They landed on her backpack with a muffled clank. Shoving the watch into one pocket of Varen’s jacket, she launched into a run, leaving Gwen behind as she scuttled around tombs and hopped over broken stones. Blindly, not caring if she fell, she made her way to the door that she hoped would, this time, take her out of the catacombs and into the graveyard, to the site of Poe’s original burial.

But what if she found that the roses had already been placed? What would she do if she’d missed him? If Reynolds had already come and gone?

Pushing all thought aside, Isobel pulled the iron handle of the door, yanking it open. The rusted hinges shrieked, their cries echoing through the catacombs. A gust of frozen air laden with a cascade of powdery snow whirled in over the threshold, sweeping between her feet to mingle with the dust, creating ghostly swirls.

Isobel paused to give one last backward glance toward Gwen, who still lay sound asleep, bundled to her chin in her coat, and the scarf Isobel had given her, looking like someone’s lost doll.

Before she could change her mind, call out to Gwen and wake her, she ducked through the door and out into the darkened cemetery.

Snow sifted from the sky in downy flakes, giving the tops of the tombs thin, fleecy blankets. It collected on the walls and gathered in the crooked elbows and outstretched fingers of the withered trees. Flecks of white caught in Isobel’s lashes, blurring her vision. She blinked them away. Then, from somewhere close by, she heard the echo of voices.

The sound of people chatting and laughing arose from beyond the far wall. A woman’s high-pitched laugh ricocheted through the cemetery, bouncing off silent headstones and tombs, their slate faces impervious to her glee.

Isobel set her footsteps down carefully as she ascended a small set of brick stairs that led from the catacombs. She glanced from side to side, only to find her view blocked by several tall crypts, and entered into a narrow space between two garage-size tombs. She put her hands against the walls on either side of her to help guide her as she pressed forward through the tight passageway.

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